Like many other professions, the role of retail staff has changed over the last decade. The internet and e-commerce are obvious catalysts, but how do salespeople themselves perceive this shift? What exactly is different now? In this article, you’ll learn how to cope with changing customer expectations.
In a study on the role of retail staff in commercial interactions by researchers at Lund University, participants were asked how their professional role over the past decade has changed. The study also included about a hundred real-life observations of interactions with customers in stores. Notably, the researchers found that customers prefer easily accessible stores, and that shoppers make purchasing decisions more independently today. This makes it harder for store staff to discern how far along in the purchasing process the customer is.
Four expectations that customers have of retail staff today:
Comprehensive product knowledge
Today, store staff report that customers expect them to be highly knowledgeable about the entire product range, including every piece of information on the website. Store staff find it difficult to keep up with all these information channels.
It used to be common for retail staff to stand behind a counter and wait for the customer to approach them whenever assistance was required. Today, the customer expects retail staff to reach out to them instead. Unfortunately, it is often not economically viable to have more staff on the floor, and it can be almost impossible to keep track of every customer at the same time.
The customer expects to get the help they need quickly, which means that store staff who are busy with stocking shelves and other inventory management tasks are expected to drop everything and be available on short notice.
Solve the logistics
Retail staff today spend a lot of time on logistics. This might involve looking up the stock status of a particular item in other stores or locations, fetching orders from the stockroom or showing where a certain product can be found in cases where the customer has looked up stock status and item location themselves on the store’s website.
As a store manager or retailer, how can you help your staff live up to these new demands?
Give staff time to learn
Surveyed staff report that they have little time to participate in training courses that store chains and brands offer online, courses that are often long and extensive. Therefore, try to avoid saddling staff with this, and instead schedule time for training. Staff also appreciate having access to mobile devices that allow them to showcase products directly to customers. Microlearning is another popular educational concept, read more about microlearning here.
Offer in-store sales training
Surveys have shown that as little as a ‘hello’ from store staff significantly increased customer satisfaction. Staff also requested more personal feedback directly on the store floor, which store managers often find difficult to provide due to time constraints. Read more about how we offer retail chains sales training in a store environment further down in the article, or visit our Retail Survey page.
Help staff prioritize
Aim to make all customers feel welcome. This makes it easier for the staff to know what tasks to prioritize.
Increase time spent on the store floor
Retail staff are generally social individuals who enjoy interacting with customers. How much time do the staff spend on other tasks? Can any of those tasks be delegated to someone else or automated? Is it viable to install a self-checkout machine so that customers who want a straightforward transaction can complete their purchase on their own?
Sales training in a store environment
Remarkable offers sales training in your own store environment. We have more than a decade of experience with this method, and it can be adapted to your specific goals and purpose. For instance, this can take the form training store managers or working directly with store staff. We evaluate your outcome as part of the service and this can e.g. be done through store visits where an anonymous customer purchases a particular product and then introduces themselves as a sales coach. The staff receives direct feedback during the service meeting. This is a popular training method for both retail staff and store managers, with proven results across the entire chain.
Get in touch with us here to learn more!